Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cranberry Chocolate Cream Cake

For me, hunger comes in waves. I’ll feel extreme stomach-turning hunger and then, after a while, the feeling passes. I’m still hungry, but at least the gnawing sensation in the bottom of my stomach if temporarily gone. I’m pretty fortunate; I’ve never really gone hungry a single day in my life. 

This year, I participated in the 30 Hour Famine through my school. The actual event, where you don’t eat for thirty hours, is secondary to raising awareness for child hunger and collecting money for World Vision, but it was something I really wanted to do. I love food, probably a little more than the next person, and I eat practically every other hour, so I really didn’t believe that I would be able to last thirty whole hours without food.

Not doing something for a whole day really draws attention to how often you actually do that one thing. It’s like getting a cut on your pinky finger; you don’t realize how much you use that finger until you can’t use it. This year, I’ve signed up for the Vow of Silence, a Me to We event during which you don’t speak for a day to raise awareness for children who don’t have a voice, and Digital Detox, another event at our school during which you don’t use any digital devices for a whole day. I didn’t last through both events, not for lack of trying, but merely because I simply forgot not to talk or to use my cell phone.

I eat, all the time. Sometimes, it’s subconscious, and I don’t even notice until I realize there’s something in my mouth. Yesterday, as I was clearing the counter to make space for my cookie sheet and cake pans, I grabbed a cherry tomato and popped it in my mouth out of habit. My mom likes eating salads, so we always have a bowl of washed cherry tomatoes sitting on the kitchen counter. And since they’re already washed and I’m lazy, I tend to snack on those cherry tomatoes. I had almost bit into the tomato when I remembered that I was doing the Famine and that I couldn’t eat anything besides the allotted bowl of steamed rice and water. I promptly spat the tomato out and congratulated myself on my willpower.
Not eating when you have the choice to do so is really difficult. My stomach growled as I decorated the cake and I despaired at the thought that I wouldn’t be able to eat a slice until the next day. I decided to call it a celebration cake to be eaten when the Famine was over and tucked the cake into the refrigerator downstairs as soon as I was done frosting it. I gave myself a pat on the back; making a cake and not eating it even though I was hungry was another demonstration of the willpower I didn’t know I possessed.

Today proved to a more difficult day. As the hours dragged on, the gnawing sensation in my stomach grew until the intervals between hunger waves dissipated entirely. It certainly didn’t help that my brother Kyle and I went to the shopping mall, where everyone was milling around with drinks in their hands. Kyle, who was also participating in the Famine, finally broke down and bought a bowl of noodles twenty-five and a half hours in. I was on the verge of breaking down too; it would have been so easy to just go and buy something to eat. Somehow, I summoned enough willpower to resist the urge to eat. I wanted to do the Famine for real.

Kyle implored me to stay with him while he ate. So there I was, sitting in a loud, crowded food court where everyone sitting surrounding me was eating their lunches. “You want some?” Kyle asked. I inhaled deeply, the smells of Greek food and pad Thai wafting into my nostrils, and firmly said no. There were only four hours left and I figured that if I had made it this far, I could wait a little longer. My resolve wasn’t quite as strong the second time he offered his lunch to me. I took a drink of water and closed my eyes. How did people do this? Not eating for a day wasn’t killing me, but the feeling of hunger was really uncomfortable. Hunger was constantly on my mind and I felt tired and unable to focus. My heart was breaking for all the people in the world who had to suffer this way.

Today I learned that not eating when you have the choice to do so is really difficult, but not eating because you can’t is so much harder.

Click below for the recipe. 

Cranberry Chocolate Cream Cake

This cake is a twist on the classic black forest cake. Instead of cherries, I used frozen cranberries I had leftover from the chocolate tart with candied cranberries. The cranberries provide a tartness that counters perfectly with the whipped cream and chocolate cake. I doubled the chocolate cupcake recipe and used 2 8-inch round pans. My cake ended up being a little too tall once I filled and frosted it, so I would recommend using an 2 8-inch square pans or 2 9-inch round pans instead.  

To candy the cranberries, I used the same method as I did for the chocolate tart with candied cranberries.

Adapted from: Food & Wine, May 2008
Yield: 1 8-inch cake


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 12 oz cranberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
  • ½ cup icing sugar

  • 4 cups whipping cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon gelatin
  • ¼ cup water

For the cake: preheat oven to 350F. Butter two 8-inch round pans, line with parchment, butter, and dust with flour. The buttering of the pan, the lining with parchment paper, buttering again, and flouring is annoying, but a lot less annoying than cakes that won’t come out of the pan in one piece. To coat the inside of the pans with flour, I sprinkled a tablespoon of flour into one pan,  turned one pan upside down and put it on top of the other, and gave it a good shake over the sink.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and instant coffee. In a medium bowl, mix the egg with the melted butter, milk, sour cream, and vanilla extract until combined. 

In a large bowl, sift flour with sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.

Add the wet ingredients and beat until smooth, scraping the bottom and side of the bowl. It’s crucial to add all the wet ingredients in one go, or you might end up with a lumpy batter. Divide the batter evenly among the two cake pans.

Bake the cakes in the center of the oven for about 30-35 minutes, until springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool for about forty-five minutes in the pan, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the candied cranberries, preheat the oven to 375F. In a medium bowl, toss the cranberries with the sugar. I found that the icing sugar melted more quickly than the granulated sugar, which reduced the chance of overcooking the cranberries. Spread into a baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, stirring halfway through. Drain the syrup; reserve. Allow the cranberries to cool completely before filling. 

For the whipped cream, stir gelatin with water and microwave for ten seconds, or until dissolved. Set aside. The gelatin is to stabilize the cream, preventing the liquid from “weeping” out of the cream. This will lengthen the time the whipped cream can sit in the refrigerator. 

In a large bowl, beat cream until with a handheld electric mixer or stand mixer slightly thickened. While beating, slowly pour in the dissolved gelatine mixture. It is essential that you are beating the cream while mixing in the gelatine; if you simply pour the gelatin in and then beat, you will end up with little lumps of gelatin in your frosting. Beat until stiff peaks form. 

Slice each cake into two layers (you should have four layers in total). Set the first layer onto your cake stand and spread a thin layer of whipped cream on top. Sprinkle one third of the cranberries, pressing down slightly. Top with a layer of cream and repeat with all the cake layers. 

To ice the cake, place a dollop of whipped cream on the top of the cake. Using an angled spatula, spread the cream over the top of the cake and down the sides. If you use a decorating triangle to comb the sides like I did, then make sure that there is a thicker layer of frosting on the sides of the cake.

To decorate the cake, I used an 18 Wilton tip to pipe a shell border at the base and on the top of the cake. Then I arranged a few cranberries in the center of the cake. Another option is to garnish with chocolate shavings. 


    WE DID IT, and we raised awareness.
    pat on the back (:

  2. Wow! And then look at this beauty that you made!


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